HAWAII VS. UNLV
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada (Sam Boyd Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 16th at 11:00 a.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports (PPV in the islands only, so no TV channel for mainlanders)
Streaming: Facebook for mainland viewers. Link should be available at Hawaii and UNLV athletics websites.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Hawaii leads the all-time series between the two programs 16-12. Since Hawaii joined the Mountain West, there has been a lot of back and forth between the two teams. In 14 games since the turn of the century, the road team has only won three times. Hawaii in particular hasn’t won in Las Vegas since 2007. Hawaii won the 2018 contest 35-28 in Honolulu thanks to Comeback Cordeiro.
Three things to look for:
1. It’s Cordeiro’s turn, can he keep the job?
Rumor turned into reality last Saturday night when Hawaii redshirt freshman quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, the hyped Saint Louis high school product, started for the Warriors against San Jose State in place of Cole McDonald. To be completely honest, I’m still not totally sure why McDonald was benched. Sure, the “he hasn’t won a Mountain West home game as the starter” stat floating around is a jarring note, but that’s not all on McDonald. Whatever the reason may be, for now it’s Chevan Cordeiro’s show.
Against the Spartans, Cordeiro went 23/31 passing for 309 passing yards and three touchdowns, along with 55 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Five touchdowns! Good enough to win Mountain West offensive player of the week. Cordeiro was excellent, his running ability in particular kept the Spartan defense guessing. Head coach Nick Rolovich didn’t outright name Cordeiro the starter against UNLV, but it would be surprising if he didn’t (and confusing). The local kid is now “the guy”, but his grace period has ended. Opposing defenses have now seen Cordeiro and the game plan when he’s the starter.
Can Chevan play well enough against UNLV, and maybe more so against San Diego State the following week, to keep the job? That is the $1,000,000 question.
2. Can the defense do enough?
C’mon, you knew it was coming. Hawaii’s victory over San Jose State eased concerns about bowl eligibility. Chevan Cordeiro was great, and Miles Reed exploded for a big game. That said, it wasn’t all perfect.
The Warriors held the Spartans’ offense, led by star quarterback Josh Love, to four field goal attempts. San Jose State kicker Matt Mercurio made all four kicks, but when a defense holds a team to that many field goal attempts in one evening, good chance the defense held that opposition to a lower point total than normal. That was not the case on the evening, where SJSU still scored 40 points and even rushed for 122 yards despite statistically being one of the worst rushing teams at the FBS level. The Spartans scored on every single offensive possession. It’s a good thing Cordeiro and the offense were firing on all cylinders, because they had to be to win this game.
Is this what Hawaii is at this point? Bend-but-don’t-break the best case scenario? In its last five games, the defense has conceded 59, 56, 31, 41, and 40 points. The Cordeiro story is encouraging, but if the Warriors want to make a run at the division title, at some point the defense from September needs to reemerge.
3. West Division Race (insert Undertaker popping out of coffin gif)
About that last part regarding the division race. When Hawaii lost to Fresno State, boosting Hawaii’s conference loss total to three games, it was assumed the Warriors were all but officially eliminated from the West Division race.
Then something insane happened. Division leader and ranked San Diego State lost at home to Nevada. Yes, Nevada. In addition to that madness, Fresno State lost to Utah State. Suddenly, there are realistic scenarios in which the Warriors can win the West Division. Most of them require the Warriors to defeat UNLV and San Diego State.
While this newfound life in the conference race is awesome, Hawaii would be wise to not count their chickens just yet. For one, as noted earlier, Hawaii hasn’t beaten UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium since Colt Brennan was playing quarterback for the Warriors. No, the Rebels aren’t good, but we’ve seen underwhelming UNLV teams beat Hawaii before. At 2-7, UNLV had a brief high moment against Vanderbilt midseason, but have since floundered. That said, quarterback Kenyon Oblad has had played well at times as the starting quarterback in place of Armani Rogers, and Charles Williams is one of the best running backs in the conference.
The Warriors and their conference hopes are back, but opposition coming off a bye and extra week to prepare, Hawaii needs to take this Rebels seriously.
I certainly hope nobody is making gambling decisions off of my predictions, because I have straight up sucked this fall. I was right about the close game against San Jose State, but once again picked the wrong winner. Frankly, I think this week’s game won’t be too dissimilar. UNLV it not good, and head coach Tony Sanchez is coaching on thin ice, but Hawaii has struggled in Vegas despite Warriors fans flooding Sam Boyd Stadium every visit. The defense has shown no signs of life for weeks, and might be a lost cause this season if they cannot slow down a Rebels offense that won’t exactly feature heavily on the all-conference list. I think this will be closer than fans would like, but Hawaii does enough to secure bowl eligibility. Give me Hawaii 41, UNLV 31.